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E-minister Patricia Hewitt pledged to improve the government's ...
E-minister Patricia Hewitt pledged to improve the government's

presence on the internet and announced plans for a comprehensive new

set of government website guidelines today.

Drawn-up by a cross-departmental government group chaired by the

cabinet office's central IT unit, to be published in November, the

guidelines aim to:

* Establish a more coherent government presence on the internet

* Make sites more accessible to a wide audience, including those with

limited internet skills, older equipment or physical disability

* Promote better links between sites and an improved standard of


* Encourage the development of excellence in departmental business


In the keynote speech to the Information Age Government Websites

Conference, Patricia Hewitt said:

'These guidelines are a decisive first step towards a more

coherent online government presence and to establishing better

standards of electronic publishing.

'We haven't used the internet as well as we might. We haven't

done enough to present a focussed message about policy or created a

common experience for those using government sites. These guidelines

will help change this.

'This is crucial as we strive to provide sites which not simply

give information but provide support services such as online tax self

assessment and advice for jobseekers.

'This is a challenging time for those working to use the

Internet. It is a central part of the strategy for promoting

e-commerce, and a crucial medium for publishing information and

interacting with citizens.'

The development of transactional websites will be a key element in

achieving the Government's target that 100 per cent of services

should be electronically accessible by 2008.

Guidelines are not intended to suppress innovation, or to impose

rigid uniformity on sites. But they will make for greater

consistency in the content of homepages, and make it easier for users

to find information in a form they can use.

Departments are likely to be audited to ensure standards are pushed



Details on the guidelines will be made available on the

Information Age Government Champions website at

Information Age Government: The prime minister launched the

performance and innovation unit report on 20

September. The government pledged to ensure that by 2002, UK

citizens and businesses will be working in the best economy in the

world for electronic trading. The government has also appointed Alex

Allen as e-envoy to champion both the e-commerce and e-government

agendas across government in the wider economy.

Last March, the government published the Modernising government

white paper, setting out a wide-ranging programme for improving

public services using information technology as a key driver. By

2008, all government services should be capable of being delivered


The government is also to publish the first-ever corporate IT

strategy. A group of information age champions - 35 senior officials

from major departments and agencies - have been established to

oversee the development and implementation of the strategy.

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